I promise that next month, you’ll have a juicy post with actual photos to accompany my ramblings. (I’ll be talking about our favorite lenses!) For now, though, you get the following article about keeping your data safe. If you’re remotely interested in that sort of thing, I think it’ll be worth your time. Enjoy! :)
Most people that know me know that I like to … evangelize. I’m no zealot when it comes to preference (Mac vs Windows, Nikon vs Canon, whatever), I simply like to recommend what works well. And that brings us to today’s post about managing and protecting your data. It’s not a glorious topic by any means, but it’s something that everyone should be aware of these days!
And just to be clear, I’m not being paid by any of these companies or anything silly like that. After rereading my article, I can see how it might look like that. I honestly just love to spread the word on quality. :)
We’ve been using Mozy in our home for nearly 4 years now and it’s provided peace-of-mind every single day. It’s a super simple service that backs up your important data to the Internet. (And by Internet, I mean the servers managed by Mozy.) You choose what files/folders you want backed up (or just use the preset suggestions) and within a few hours or days, all of your data will be safely duplicated on Mozy’s servers.
You might not be convinced that this is worth your trouble just yet, so let me spell out a few reasons this is a GOOD idea:
- Your computer hard drive dies. Your important documents (photos, music, word docs, etc) are all safe and can be restored from Mozy when you’re up and running again!
- A virus kicks your computer’s butt. Mozy to the rescue!
- You write over a file instead of saving a new copy. Assuming you let Mozy backup frequently, you should be able to revert back to that first file with no issue.
- You were working on a document on your desktop, but need access to it on your laptop. Mozy allows you retrieve files via their website. (Though Dropbox, listed below, might be a better fit.)
- Your laptop gets stolen. You get the idea.
Now that you’re convinced you can’t live without this service, you need to go sign up! Like me, you probably don’t want to plunk down any money until you can give any service a test drive. Mozy’s nice enough to give you 2GB of space for free; there’s no time limit, no credit card to put on file, just their faith that you’ll love the service so much that you’ll invest in it. (You can sign up through Mozy.com or use this referral link to get an additional .25GB of space for both of us. Hooray!)
If you’re absolutely sold on the service, but need more than the 2GB they offer, no worries! The MozyHome Unlimited option is just under $5 a month and is a perfect fit if you have a large music, photo, or video library. (If you sign up for a full year or two at once, you even get a few months free.) We’ve had this on two of our desktops for years now and it feels so good knowing our complete music and photo collection is safe elsewhere. Just make sure you check their RetailMeNot.com page to get the best deal! ;)
This service is less about backing up data and more about keeping your computers connected. If you have a single desktop or laptop, this section probably isn’t for you. Between Jensey and I, though, we have two desktops, two laptops, and two iPhones. Yet only one business. So making sure we have convenient access to key files anywhere we go can be incredibly helpful. The concept here is super simple: You have a specific folder on each computer called “My Dropbox”. Anything you put in there gets synced to all your other computers with a linked Dropbox account. It’s that easy. (What else would you expect from a bunch of kids at MIT?) =P
When we were reviewing and finalizing files with Justin & Lu Cone (the awesome designers behind our new website/blog), Dropbox was instrumental! We created a specific design folder in our “My Dropbox” folder, shared it with them via Dropbox’s website, and we had an immediate link to each other to share files. It was kind of like magic, actually. Lu would drop in some sample designs, we’d see them within seconds, and provide feedback via our shared Google Doc. (It was especially neat to check the Dropbox iPhone app and see new files there as well!)
While that was our best use of the service, we’ve done similar things with plenty of other couples or wedding vendors. Sometimes people need images immediately and burning/shipping a disc just isn’t fast enough. Dropbox to the rescue! Create a new folder, share it, and within moments you can have any number of files ready for the other person to download!
Just like Mozy, you can sign up for an account with 2GB of free space to use. (And yes, I implore you to use these links to sign up. It helps us gain precious storage one friend at a time!) In case the free service doesn’t quite cut it, they offer expanded storage options as well. (50GB for $10/month isn’t too bad of a deal, honestly.)
Windows Home Server
It has taken us years to find and settle on this solution! This product does a little bit of everything, honestly. It’s especially good for small offices and home networks, but I’m sure just about anyone could find a use for it. Windows Home Server comes in two forms: you can buy a pre-built server with everything pre-installed or you can just buy the software and install it on your own server. (More on that in a bit.) Since Windows Home Server is such a large product, I’m going to try and briefly outline my favorite features.
- For every PC we have on our home network (my desktop, Jensey’s, and the bedroom Boxee laptop), WHS will create a nightly backup of the whole system. That means that if my desktop hard-drive dies, I can pop in a new one and restore completely from WHS and be back up and running in hours. You can decide how granular the backup schedule is, what files or folders to exclude, and can even access past backups simply to retrieve a lost file. (Combined with Mozy, you’re pretty much gold!)
- The server allows you to create and share a wide variety of folders on your local network. (And even make certain ones accessible only to specific users.) We have our Music folder which all computers in the house now stream from. I’ve begun ripping our DVDs into the Video folder so they’re viewable anywhere in the house. (Especially Boxee!) Our Photos folder includes “_PERSONAL” and “_WORK” which, well, now houses all of our personal and work imagery.
- Each folder can be duplicated on the server so that if one hard-drive dies, your data is still safe on another! For example, we have our Photos folder duplicated (being as important as it is), but not the Videos folders. (Mostly because it’d take up too much space.)
- You can can access this data from anywhere. We haven’t turned this feature on yet, but the idea is that you can access your music, photos, videos, documents from anywhere with net access. That’s kind of awesome and would definitely save my butt when we’re on the road sometimes.
- Need more storage? Just pop in another drive. We still have 27% capacity with our four 1TB drives, but we’ll need to expand soon!
Over the years, we’ve spent a lot of time and money chasing the best possible storage solution. At first, I think it was a 500GB drive in my PC, shared over the network for Jensey to access. Then I built a small server with a few additional drives and Windows 2000. There wasn’t much room to expand and Win2k was definitely showing its age. Oh, and it wasn’t very fast. We added two 500GB external drives to the mix. And then we found the bane of my existence, the Drobo. It sounded great in theory; An external device, four drive bays, redundant (RAID-like) storage, expandable, and accessible over firewire or USB. Well, needless to say, we never got it working smoothly over firewire, and sharing it over the network via USB provided some infuriating bottlenecks. (That, and I was lucky to ever get above 8MB/s from it.) I cringe thinking about the time we spent trying to use it as our primary solution. It now acts as an archival unit, holding our oldest and least accessed wedding and portrait images. (We considered Linux for a bit, but that wasn’t going to be flexible enough.)
Then came the WHS. *cue angelic trumpets* It’s expandable, works seamlessly in our Windows home network, fast for everyone, and let me use a bunch of old computer parts that were gathering dust. (The software has very modest hardware requirements.) The operating system is only $100 at Newegg.com and I couldn’t be happier with this addition to our home office network. (Please let me know if you have any questions about it, I’d love to help!)
Apart from making my life generally easier, each of these services has one more thing in common; they don’t get in my way! They each have simple user interfaces and don’t try to do anything unnecessary. I know this whole article was a bit long, but I hope it was equally helpful in organizing and protecting your data. There’s no excuse these days to let your digital memories get lost.
Me & my love hanging out in Denver. (Huge thanks to my friend Casi for snapping this!)